Tuesday, 18 May 2010

New website and blogsite

From now on all of my blogging can be found at my new website


Thanks very much!


Thursday, 8 April 2010

A new chapter in life

Last night Christine and I left England and flew to Singapore. We are staying here for 10 days with her parents, and then spending three months in the Philippines doing voluntary work for a street children charity. After that we are moving to Hong Kong, where we will live for at least a year, possibly much longer.

So a new chapter in life is beginning.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Video of Pecha Kucha event lecture: The M25 by foot

This is a video of a Charity Pecha Kucha event I spoke at in London recently. The idea of Pecha Kucha is that you have to give a talk using 20 slides, each of which is pre-programmed to last only 20 seconds long, and then the computer automatically goes onto the next slide.

So here is my 20 slides explaining the M25 by foot expedition!

Pecha Kucha: The M25 by foot - Rob Lilwall. www.roblilwall.com from alastair Humphreys on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The M25 on foot (in the snow)

The week after New Year, me and my old cycling friend, Al Humphreys, decided to walk a lap of the M25. The last adventure we did together was cycling across Siberia in the winter. But now we were living in England and only had a week spare.... so the M25 seemed like the obvious choice.

We also wanted to test two theories:
1. That you don't have to fly to the other side of the world to have a big adventure
2. That it is not just in other parts of the world that people are friendly (on our far flung travels on bicycles we had often been invited to stay with complete strangers and looked after admirably) - surely people in England could be friendly too?

We put the date for our departure in the diary. When the day came, the 6th of January, it turned out that it was also the day that England plunged into some of its worst weather for 30 years. Half the country took a week off work, but for us it was time to go walking. Over the coming week there were regular snowfalls, and plummeting temperatures.

As we had not even brought a tent with us (just bivvy bags, and a sheet of waterproof material for making a makeshift shelter), this led to some quite chilly nights outside and yet with also some stunning and exceptionally beautiful landscapes.

Almost immediately it felt like a brilliant adventure, on par with many of things elsewhere in the world. However, on our second day, after enjoying our first night sleeping outside, a different problem began to dawn on us: how slowly we were going. We were walking in the fields and on small roads and paths near to the motorway, but often our way was obstructed by forests, fences and houses. This meant that we had to climb over lots of fences, and also that we often had to detour around properties - sometimes walking three sides of a square to progress. This meant we would have to walk a lot further than the 120 miles which the motorway covers in a car. We only had a week to complete the walk, so worked out that we would have to walk a minimum of four junctions a day - about 30 miles - if we were going to make it. As the daylight was short, this meant we were in for a lot of night marches.

We pressed onwards, and were delighted to discover that the people we encountered were - by and large - amazing. We decided that the snow actually helped make people even friendlier than they would be normally - perhaps our walk appealed to the British sense of the absurd.

A case in point was our second night - the night we reached the town of Redbridge (not a place that I have ever been particularly motivated to visit). We stumbled into a pub to have a warm dinner inside. The girl behind the bar said the drinks were on her. And then we got chatting to an Irishman and his wife, and a few minutes later they had invited us to stay! We enjoyed having a hot shower and dry bed that night.

A few mornings later, after we had just set off from our latest campsite in a forest, a cyclist appeared on the road and stopped as he reached us. He announced that he had been following our walk through Al's Twitter, and had actually come looking for us so that he could invite us back to his house for a cooked breakfast! Another time, in another pub one evening, a city commuter invited us to camp in his garden (he wasn't quite brave enough to invite us inside, but did appear at the door the next morning in his boxer shorts with 2 cups of tea).

As the week wore on, the walking became harder and harder for me. Both foot blisters and knee ache were getting worse and worse. I began to move in less of a walk, and more of a stagger . It made me realise what a relatively painless form of travel cycling is compared to walking - in large part because you can carry all of your gear on the bike racks, and not on your back.

A few days later, I was delighted when I found an abandoned child's sled in the hedge. This meant I could drag my pack for a while. Then, another day, I found an old shopping trolley, and so pushed my pack down the road, Cormac McCarthy style (if you haven't seen the movie 'The Road' yet, then I highly recommend it).

Finally, after seven long hard days of four junctions a day, we made it to the Dartford Bridge. A policeman told us we could not walk across, but he then had pity and gave us a lift in his police car.

That night, enjoying a well-earned beer at Al's house, we reflected that our two theories had been put to the test - and proved beyond reasonable doubt. Indeed, you do only only need to step out of your front door to have an adventure... and the people of England are a lot friendlier than we sometimes expect!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A new (mini) expedition with Al

To mark the beginning of 2010, and because I have barely been back into the wild since completing the bicycle trip, tomorrow, Al Humphreys and I will embark on a short, new expedition together. Hopefully this one will not last three years.

Silly though it may sound, we plan to walk a lap of the M25 (the motorway which runs in a circle around London) off-road, sleeping rough in fields and forests along the way. It's about 200 miles(ish), we have 8 days to complete it, though with 16 inches of snow forecast tonight, this might be harder than it sounds!

Our main goals for the trip are:
- have a fun, cheap adventure
- remind ourselves that you don't have to fly to Siberia to have an adventure, there is plenty to do just beyond our doorsteps
- to learn a bit more about our own country - its people and its landscapes.

I'll let you know how we get on once its done!